When the Celtics announced that Bill Russell would receive a statue in Boston, it was a moment a long time coming for a player who didn't always have the best relationship with the city he helped put on the NBA map. Russell has had his issues with Boston in the past, but a long rehabilitation process has healed those wounds. The statue is an honor that everyone can agree on.
It has also gotten more people talking about which retired stars deserve statues. Public outcry generally did not point towards the Lakers giving Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a statue outside of Staples Center. But the former Lakers great feels slighted anyway. From Steve Greenberg of Sporting News (via ESPN Los Angeles):
"I don't understand (it). It's either an oversight or they're taking me for granted. I'm not going to try to read people's minds, but it doesn't make me happy. It's definitely a slight. I feel slighted."
In a subsequent statement passed along by his business manager, Abdul-Jabbar said: "I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Laker success. I guess being the lynchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history."
The Lakers offered this response, via spokesman John Black:
"We've been at Staples Center 11 years and have two ex-players who have statues now. It's not like we do it every year; we have no timetable. Whenever we do the next statue of the third Los Angeles Lakers player, it (will be) Kareem---and he has been told that. Again, we didn't say when that was going to be. It could be next year, the year after or several years from now."
Kareem was a great Laker who helped the franchise to a handful of championships, but to be "highly offended" and claim "total lack of acknowledgment" is a total overreaction. As Black notes, Staples Center has two statues of Lakers greats Magic Johnson and Jerry West (along with a very creepy monument to legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn). Statues are pretty rare occurrences -- it's not like the Lakers have erected likenesses of Sedale Threatt and Elden Campbell before getting to KAJ. There are apparently plans to put one up in the future. Why couldn't he just wait it out?
On top of all that, the Lakers have employed Kareem as an assistant coach, let him celebrate with the team on the podium following championships, and generally acknowledged his importance to the franchise with the sort of regularity that would make many of the greatest players in league history blush. What could cause Abdul-Jabbar to overlook all those instances of displayed gratitude? Is a statue that important?
The irony here is that Kareem's outcry over his perceived slight will, if anything, only make it tougher for him to get a statue outside Staples Center. This interview is likely going to create some bad blood. Can someone explain what he was trying to accomplish here?
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